Notes from the Woodcutter: Harry Houdini
By Loren Kantor
Editor’s Note: Loren Kantor often chooses Jews and Jewish themes as topics for his woodcuts. He’s agreed to share images from his work–and the stories behind them– with San Diego Jewish World. Magician Harry Houdini is the fifth topic in the series.
STUDIO CITY, California — His name is synonymous with magic, but Harry Houdini (born Erich Weiss) rose to fame as an escape artist and stunt performer.
Long before David Blaine, Houdini perfected the art of death-defying public spectacle. He hung from skyscrapers while tied in a straightjacket, he immersed himself in a freezing river while trapped in a barrel.
The son of a rabbi, Houdini became a strong moral figure in the magic community often resolving disputes between competing magicians. In 1906 he started the magazine Conjurer’s Monthly which helped unite magicians who had no union at the time.
Later in life he became a debunker of fraudulent spiritualists and psychics. His life ended at age 52 when he was blindsided by a punch in the stomach from an overzealous fan (causing fatal appendicitis). The woodcut above is based on a 1915 poster for Pathe’s serialized Houdini Film The Master Of Mystery. (5″ x 7″, black ink print with watercolor)
Loren Kantor is a woodcut artist based in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. To see works he has for sale, visit http://woodcuttingfool.blogspot.com/
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